Mar 052012

Thomas Cuthbert and Margaret Downie were my great-great-great-grandparents from Scotland (those would be my mother's father's mother's mother's parents). A fellow Downie descendant – himself an actual Downie – stumbled across my web site and we had a bit of an email correspondence. He seemed to have far more genealogical experience than I do so I valued his comment and suggestions.

I know that Margaret Downie's parents are David Downie (born abt 1794 and died bef 1851) and Jean McMicken (born abt 1795 and died aft 1851).

I have a marriage record that lists them being married 8 Sep 1816 in Stirling Parish. He had them married 7 Sep 1816 in Old Monkland, Lanarkshire. Now, the record I had listed Jean McMicken as Airdrie. And checking online, it looks like Old Monkland encompassed areas in and around Airdrie. So perhaps this could be the same marriage recorded in two parish records? I do not know if this was common or not and whether this could explain the discrepancy.

I had David Downie's parents as David Downie and Margaret Ogilvie. While I do not have any direct evidence that these are his parents, the Ogilvie name is carried through a couple of generations, the birth year was around right, and the birth was in Stirling, where the marriage could have taken place, or at least was recorded for David. Without confirmation, this should be listed simply as "possible". He said that if in fact this is the David Downie from Stirling, it's possible that his father, David Downie, was baptized there on 25 Oct 1761 to Robert Downie and Mary Ferguson. 

Somehow I had missed that on the 1851 Scottish census, which I had seen, it listed Jean McMicken's birth place as Stranraer, Wigtownshire, Scotland. One suggestion was that because Jean's birthplace was Stranraer, and that Stranraer is the port in Scotland nearest to Ireland, and that her surname was McMicken, that she could have been of Irish origin. He also noted that the the different spellings of McMicken or McMeighan would be accounted for by English/Gaelic variations in spelling combined with the fact that Jean could well have not known how to read or write. 

He also noted that on the 1851 census there a Barbra McMicken in Stranraer aged 90 (i.e. between 90 and 94 as ages in that Census were rounded down to the nearest five years) born Wigtownshire, with Eliza McMicken, aged 45 occupation Independent; the address is Neptune Street. Could this be Jean's mother and sister? Or another relative?

Finally, I shared with him text from a letter written by William Cuthbert, son of Thomas Cuthbert and Margaret Downie:

"The Cuthbert’s came down through the Highlander families of Downies and McMeighans. It is said that a great-great-great etc. grandmother ran away with the Earl of Early’s son, a Noble, and the old Earl never forgave him for it. The couple lived in the Highlands of Scotland. One of their daughters married a McMeighan and they had seven sons. The father was a Captain and owner of a small coastal sailing vessel. He decided to leave the Highlands about 1750 and placed his family – the great-great-great-grandmother and the seven sons – on board the vessel, and sailed down the west coast of Scotland.

This took several weeks, during which there was an awful storm, so the old Captain McMeighan put them down below for most of the voyage. He had two sailors and himself to man the ship. The storm was so bad that they had to nail down the hatches to keep water out, as the waves broke over the small ship. When the storm abated, the hatches were removed, the grandmother (the Captain’s wife, and a Downie) climbed the ladder to have a peek at the land close at hand. She noticed that the houses all had red roofs, (red tiles), which she thought was red straw. She explained to her husband, the Captain – “Look! Look! See the hooses aw thatched wi red straw!” He returned the exclamation by tell her – “Get down below ye blithering b—ch!” It would appear that the family eventually landed near Glasgow. This story has been handed down and told by the Downies in Boston and Providence.

The seven sons all became successful men in various parts of the world. One went to the West Indies and became a slave owner with a large sugar plantation. He never married, and when he died, the property and slaves were left to Marion’s grandfather Downie and his brothers and sisters – but none of them would claim the property, considering it “blood money”, on account of it having been made with slaves!

Another brother joined the British Navy. He was drowned at Portsmouth about 1780, while on the battleship “Royal George” that was sunk in the harbor one night with all on board – including some hundreds of rich men and women who were drinking and dancing when the ship went down. An account of this tragic even has been recorded in English History.

Another brother, John McMeighan, Marion’s maternal grandfather, went into ship building and was prosperous. He built a dock at Stranraer, south of Glasgow, and had something to do with the invention of the steam hammer. It is said that when he died, the property went into Chancery, as no legal heirs could be found. No doubt there were lots of them, but they failed to put in the proper claim."

He suggested that the Earl referred to could have been the Earl of Airlie, which is in Angus at the other side of Scotland. He also noted that "the story of the red tiles suggests that the voyage was down the East coast of Scotland as red tiles were brought over from Holland as ballast by ships from the East of Scotland ports in Angus and Fife, and 'pantiled' houses with red roofs are common on this side of the country, much less so in the West. See this very informative leaflet from Historic Scotland: The houses shown on the leaflet with the stepped gables are almost certainly from East Fife, where my Downies came from."

Interestingly, even though the story suggests that the wife of Captain McMeighan (McMicken) was a Downie, if indeed that wife did descend from the Earls of Airlie, her name would have been Ogivly. So perhaps this was the Ogilvie connection in the family? Who knows. It makes for interesting family lore at least.

He also mentioned that "one member of the Ogilvy family, John Ogilvie, now know as Saint John Ogilvie after being canonised in 1976 was a Jesuit priest who was hanged for his beliefs in Glasgow in 1615. Making a connection with your family may be difficult!" Indeed.

Feb 082012

My distant cousin from Canada sent me some more information on the Downie family that he found. It includes a death record for my great-great-great-grandmother, Margaret Ogilvie (Downie) Cuthbert, and pictures of two of her brothers, William and Anthony. He also sent a picture of another Cuthbert named John, but I don't know if that's a brother or a cousin (most likely a cousin since no "John" appears in other family records).

death record for Margaret Ogilvie (Downie) Cuthbert

Jan 182012

Margaret Ogilvie is my fifth great-grandmother from Scotland, married to David Downie in 1783 in Stirling Parish.

I did a search on ScotlandsPeople and found two birth records for a "Margaret Ogilvie" born between 1755 (which would make Margaret 28 when married, which is rather old for back then) and 1767 (which would make Margaret only 15 when married, which is rather young for back then). I found two records for Stirling, Scotland, one in 1762 to James Ogilvie and Mary Richie, and another in 1762 to George Ogilvie and Christian Leishman. After looking again, I discovered that the birth to James and Mary was the only one in Stirling Parish. So while it's not definite, it seems more likely that her parents were James and Mary since the marriage record for Margaret to David Downie noted "in this Parish" which I take to mean "of this Parish". The birth record notes several other births for Ogilvie's, some of whom could be her siblings or her cousins.

I then did a search for James Ogilvie and Margaret Richie and found a marriage record from 1749, which gives James' father as John and Margaret's father as James, both deceased at the time of the marriage. This seems more likely given that the wife's name is Margaret and the daughter's name in Margaret, which was a fairly common practice back then. John Ogilvie and James Richie would be my seventh great-grandfathers. Pretty cool given that when I started all I had was some of my (first) great-grandparents.

birth record 8 Mar 1761 for Margaret Ogilvie to James Ogilvie and Mary Richie

marriage record 13 Jan 1749 for James Ogilvie and Margaret Richie

Jan 172012

My great-great-great-grandmother's brother, David Downie, was a missionary to India. On I found a link to a passport application he made to return to the United States. It's an interesting glimpse into his life. 

He was born in Glasgow, Scotland 29 July 1838. He emigrated to the U.S. in June 1852, residing in various places in the U.S. until 1873. He became a U.S. citizen in 1857. From 1873 on he was a missionary in India.

This is a 1918 request for an emergency passport so he can travel back to the U.S. It's interesting that it gives his destinations en route as the Straits Settlement in Ceylon, then Hong Kong, Japan, Canada, and then the U.S.

David Downie died nine years later 19 July 1927 in Pasadena, CA, at the age of 90. His wife was Annie Hershey. While I think she was perhaps from Pennsylvania, I could not determine whether she was related to the Hershey of Hershey's chocolate or not, but I also didn't spend much time looking. 

Jan 102012

My great-great-great-grandmother, Margaret Ogilvie Downie, married Thomas Cuthbert; she was my mother's father's father's mother's mother, if you can grock that. Her brother, Anthony Downie, was born 31 Oct 1828 in Gorbals, Glasgow, Lanark, Scotland. He died 2 May 1877 at the age of 48 in Providence, Rhode Island.

Here is his death certificate. I had hoped to confirm the name of his mother. I know his father was David Downie. And the death certificate lists his name as David, so that's confirmed. This also confirms that his mother was named Jean. But I need some confirmation on her last name. Various records give it as McMicken or McMeaghan. But this only lists her name as Jean. I've also mailed California to get the death certificate for another brother, David Downie. Maybe that will show more.

Jul 172011

My mother's father, my grandfather, was Donald Burke. His father, Arthur Burke, was Irish. His mother, Margaret De Guehery, was French.

Or so we thought.

For my initial pass at filling in our family tree, it was a treasure hunt whenever I poked around on, hitting the jackpot whenever I found a distant cousin researching part of my family tree. But as I grew more serious about genealogy, I wanted to make sure that any distant cousins I might find were as serious as I am about documenting records. So now I contact them directly. Some never respond. Many have. Now I have a small network of distant family sharing finds and working on the same problems.

One of these distant cousins is related to Margaret De Guehery.

I knew that Margaret's parents were Emanual de Guehery and Marion Cuthbert. I even had some very old pictures of Marion from my aunt. A search on had revealed their marriage record in Ontario, with Rudolph and Goddlibien de Guehery and Thomas and Margaret Cuthbert listed as their parents.

I also knew that the de Gueherys and Cuthberts had lived in Chalk River, Ontario, both from our own family history, and from the records I found.

What I didn't know was that the Cuthberts were Scottish.

At some point in my search a few years, I had found a Marion Cuthbert in England but rejected that as nothing more than a false alarm.

Well, my fourth cousin had discovered that both Thomas and Margaret Cuthbert had both been born in Scotland. Thomas in Bathgate. Margaret in Glasgow. At the same time, someone in the Upper Ottawa Valley Genealogical Group found Margaret's obituary in a search of their records for me, confirming that Margaret Ogilvy (Downie) Cuthbert had died at age 80 and that she was born in Glasgow, Scotland.

The family had moved to London, England, where Marion and some of her siblings were born. So my find from a few years ago was spot on.

We're Scottish. A small part Scottish, to be sure. After all, it's only my great-great-grandmother who is Scottish. But that's still 1/16.

My cousin also had some photos to share, including a group picture that includes my great-great-great-grandmother, a picture of my great-great-great-grandfather, and a picture of the Cuthbert family farm in Chalk River that had appeared in the newspaper. 

He is a descendant of the gentleman at the left of the photo below, William Cuthbert, Margaret's son and Marions' brother. William took over the Cuthbert farm. What's kind of cool is that my cousin just recently bought the farm for himself and his family.

Margaret Ogilvie (Downie) Cuthbert, my great-great-great-grandmother with William Cuthbert's family

Thomas Cuthbert, my great-great-great-grandfather

the Cuthbert family farm

Jul 112011

Gravemarkers are an excellent source of basic genealogical information. I've called and written cemeteries and I've recruited my sister, who still lives in Western NY, to photograph markers for distant relatives who lived and died near Buffalo.

That's not an option when it's a family member who lived and died hundreds of miles away.

My mom's paternal grandmother was Margaret Ogilvie de Guehery. She was born in Chalk River, Renfrew County, Ontario. I had found a marriage record for her parents, Emanuel de Guehery and Marion Cuthbert on To track down additional information on Margaret and her parents, I wrote several cemeteries and parishes around Chalk River.

Someone from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pembroke gave me a link to the Renfrew County Gravemarker Gallery

While the search capabilities are relatively spartan, this seems to be a fairly complete visual record of all the cemeteries in Renfew County. My sincere thanks go to those who did all the hard work putting this gravemarker gallery together.

I was able to find gravemarkers for several relatives, including my great-great-great-grandparents.

my great-great-great-grandfather Thomas Cuthbert
born 20 Sep 1813 in Bathgate, Scotland
died 19 May 1893 in Wylie, Renfrew, Ontario

my great-great-great-grandmother Margaret Ogilvie Downie
born 11 Apr 1822 in Glasgow, Scotland
died 28 Jul 1901 in Chalk River, Renfrew, Ontario

Thomas and Margaret's son, William Cuthbert
brother to my great-great-grandmother Marion Cuthbert
born 6 Mar 1863 in London, England
died Jul 1943 in Chalk River, Renfrew, Ontario